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Americans can learn from Australia


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A reader of my stories who has become a good friend forwarded this to me. Australia has much to be proud of and America could learn a lot from our friends down there!

There's a lot to admire about Australia, especially if you're a visiting American, says David Mason, a US writer and professor, and poet laureate of Colorado.
More often than you might expect, Australian friends patiently listening to me enthuse about their country have said, ''We need outsiders like you to remind us what we have.''
So here it is, - a small presumptuous list of what one foreigner admires in Oz.
He is an avid traveller and appreciates quality of life. He wrote this on a tour of OZ.
DOUG
1. Health care.
I know the controversies, but basic national health care is a gift.
In America, medical expenses are a leading cause of bankruptcy.
The drug companies dominate politics and advertising.
Obama is being crucified for taking halting baby steps towards sanity.
You can't turn on the telly without hours of drug advertisements - something I have never yet seen here.
And your emphasis on prevention - making cigarettes less accessible, for one - is a model.
2. Food.
Yes, we have great food in America too, especially in the big cities.
But your bread is less sweet, your lamb is cheaper, and your supermarket vegetables and fruits are fresher than ours.
Too often in my country an apple is a ball of pulp as big as your face.
The dainty Pink Lady apples of Oz are the juiciest I've had.
And don't get me started on coffee.
In American small towns it tastes like water flavoured with burnt dirt, but the smallest shop in the smallest town in Oz can make a first-rate latte.
I love your ubiquitous bakeries, your hot-cross buns. Shall I go on?
3. Language.
How do you do it?
The rhyming slang and Aboriginal place names like magic spells.
Words that seem vaguely English yet also resemble an argot from another planet.
I love the way institutional names get turned into diminutives - Vinnie's and Salvos - and absolutely nothing's sacred.
Everything's an opportunity for word games and everyone's a nickname.
Lingo makes the world go round.
It's the spontaneous wit of the people that tickles me most.
Late one night at a barbie my new mate Suds remarked, ''Nothing's the same since 24-7.'' Amen.
4. Free-to-air TV.
In Oz, you buy a TV, plug it in and watch some of the best programming I've ever seen - uncensored.
In America, you can't get diddly-squat without paying a cable or satellite company heavy fees.
In Oz a few channels make it hard to choose.
In America, you've got 400 channels and nothing to watch.
5. Small shops.
Outside the big cities in America corporations have nearly erased them.
Identical malls with identical restaurants serving inferior food.
Except for geography, it's hard to tell one American town from another.
The ''take-away'' culture here is wonderful.
Human encounters are real - stirring happens, stories get told.
The curries are to die for. And you don't have to tip!
6. Free camping.
We used to have this too, and I guess it's still free when you backpack miles away from the roads.
But I love the fact that in Oz everyone owns the shore and in many places you can pull up a camper van and stare at the sea for weeks.
I love the ''primitive'' and independent campgrounds, the life out of doors.
The few idiots who leave their stubbies and rubbish behind in these pristine places ought to be transported in chains.
7. Religion.
In America, it's everywhere - especially where it's not supposed to be, like politics.
I imagine you have your Pharisees too, making a big public show of devotion, but I have yet to meet one here.
8. Roads.
Peak hour aside, I've found travel on your roads pure heaven.
My country's ''freeways'' are crowded, crumbling, insanely knotted with looping overpasses - it's like racing homicidal maniacs on fraying spaghetti.
I've taken the Hume without stress, and I love the Princes Highway when it's two lanes.
Ninety minutes south of Batemans Bay I was sorry to see one billboard for a McDonald's.
It's blocking a lovely paddock view. Someone should remove it.
9. Real multiculturalism.
I know there are tensions, just like anywhere else, but I love the distinctiveness of your communities and the way you publicly acknowledge the Aboriginal past.
Recently, too, I spent quality time with Melbourne Greeks, and was gratified both by their devotion to their own great language and culture and their openness to an Afghan lunch.
10. Fewer guns.
You had Port Arthur in 1996 and got real in response.
America replicates such massacres several times a year and nothing changes.
Why?
Our religion of individual rights makes the good of the community an impossible dream.
Instead of mateship we have ''It's mine and nobody else's''.
We talk a great deal about freedom, but too often live in fear.
There's more to say - your kaleidoscopic birds, your perfumed bush in springtime, your vast beaches.
These are just a few blessings that make Australia a rarity.
Of course, it's not paradise - nowhere is - but I love it here.
No need to wave flags like Americans and add to the world's windiness.
Just value what you have and don't give it away.

David Mason is a US writer and professor, and poet laureate of Colorado.

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It is my understanding that many of the British Commonwealth nations drive to the left so that when a driver wants to draw his longsword or brandish his lance against an oncoming driver they can engage. In the States we have Guns so it doesn't matter since we can shoot 'em up in any direction.

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I can think of a few things that are very bad about Australia. For one, just try to emigrate or get a job there if you're from a foreign country. I don't think anybody fights immigration more than Australia.

I love Australia in many ways, but don't pretend all of it's good. The single best thing I like about the Australians I meet and work with is that 90% of the time, they're totally direct, no-BS people, and it's good to deal with that, especially in LA.

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I've lived here all my 70 years, and believe me, there is plenty bad. It's the good that is worth staying for, and there is lots of that.

We have our fair share of bigots, psychopaths and priests of burden. The weather ranges from icy cold to scorching hot.

Our politicians are basically opportunistic ego tyrants who largely don't understand the concept of governance as they lust after an imaginary power to rule; all the time believing that they are doing what is best for everyone. It's their one saving grace.

We don't have a bill of rights, but our national directive is to provide everyone a "fair go." Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't; corruption looms in high places and spreads all the way down to the "shop floor." But our corruption is often misdirected and fallen angels are revered as martyrs for an impossible dream, if not for an honourable attempt to make life better for all.

The most significant example of our fallibility is the reverence we place on sport over thought. Yet this is balanced to some degree by the few who seek intellectual consideration of life, love and the ideas that came from the Enlightenment that brought forth the U.S. experiment in democracy.

Our constitution and federation of states came after the U.S. but it is both, less and more, in its intent and execution. We lack the liberation of a war of independence and despite calls for Australia to convert to a republic, our attempts to do so have been less than stellar under the constellation of the British Commonwealth of nations, with our own starry nights under the Southern Cross.

There can be no defence against the tough immigration laws except to point out that what we have here is not the same as elsewhere. Our wide open spaces are uninhabitable desert for modern technology lifestyles. Many people look at the size of Australia and don't understand that the great Outback is waterless salt-bush and inhospitable to everyone except the indigenous Aborigines.

(I've been trying to write a story about a white man's Dreamtime set in the parched Outback of Australia.)

Multiculturalism works here because of the limits imposed on immigration, although I doubt you will find that many will agree with me.

Let me explain. A few years ago we had a movie festival at the cinema where I worked. One night we had an Israeli movie, the next night we had a Palestinian move, then movies from Iraq and Iran. It was a very full and busy week. Toward the end I commented to one of the organisers, herself from one of the Middle Eastern countries, that every night the audiences, were all the same people, to which she replied, "Yes, if we could export the Multiculturalism we have in this little Aussie cinema back to the Middle East, we would have a chance for peace in those countries.

Yet, I agree that we are over protective of our happy coexistence, and need to make more effort to participate in resettling the refugees from other lands.

Don't ask me how, I don't know how to achieve that, but we do need to think outside the selfish boundaries of the past.

I look at the various hotspots around the world with all the aggressive wars and battles that rob people of their human rights, and realise that Australians are very lucky. We have our problems, but they are mild skirmishes in suburbia when compared to the daily hardships and loss of life that occurs elsewhere.

And then there is our famous, laconic sense of humour; our quickness to see through the phoney posturing of others whilst we sometimes express our desire to think ourselves superior and at the same time live in fear of being inferior. We are isolated, with all the insular cultural qualities of the many ethnic peoples which make up Australia. It is working, but needs a lot more effort to fulfil the promise of remaining The Lucky Country. I wish we could export our mostly happy existence.

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I have a problem with #10.

One would think that an unpopular sexual minority would avail itself of the right to bear arms- and a great many do.

It's a shame that the BIG GAY ORTHODOXY ™ has whored itself out- lock, stock and barrel to the radical left. Repealing the 2nd Amendment is never going to happen. If it does it WILL set off a bloody Civil War in which both sides would lose.

The truth is that there are more guns than people in the United States and the stronger the gun laws, the worse the violence. Indeed: the cities with the strongest gun laws are the ones with the worst gun violence: Detroit, Chicago, DC and LA all have draconian gun laws and high rates of gun homicide.

There's a reason why the 2nd Amendment was added to the Bill of Rights. Most of colonial America came from Europe and had been peasants there with no rights and a long history of being screwed by the landed gentry. Only "Gentlemen" were allowed to bear weapons and any serf found with a "Gentleman's weapon" were killed as they were assumed to have either stolen it, a criminal or a insurrectionist.

In their new country there were two things they demanded: the ability to own land and the right to bear arms.

You aren't required to own firearms but consider this: do we seek to ban cars because of drunk drivers? Do we try to shut down pharmaceutical because people abuse drugs?

Firearms are the only object that we blame for the misbehavior of others.

Don't ask me to become a serf because YOU are insecure.

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Australian gun rights and American gun rights are not comparable. While the lower rate of guns in the community may be considered to be a boon, that only works here because of the culture that goes with it. While violence occurs, it's usually fist fights. Knives and guns in violence are generally restricted to small sectors of the community usually associated with criminal elements. Interestingly, though, guns are not a major part of crime. I think the criminals know that in Australia using a gun in a crime will be seen as abhorrent and will bring down the full force of the law to track down the culprits. Unless the payoff is huge, the use of a gun in crime is therefore seen as counter-productive.

Just my view on that subject :smile: The Australian situation is not exportable to most other nations.

On multiculturalism, I'll just support what Des has said. My view is that it takes two to three generations for a new ethnic group to be absorbed into the Australian culture. The first generation sticks together, the second generation starts to merge in with the wider community (having grown up alongside other Australians from outside their own ethnic group) and the third generation is pretty much integrated into the community.

That's pretty much completed with the Mediterranean immigrants after WWII, and is well underway with the following Asian immigrants. The middle-eastern and African immigrants are just starting that process, which is why there are some issues occurring in those groups, especially in Western Sydney.

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Absorbing other ethnicities into the Aussie culture is pretty much as Graeme says. I believe that there are quotas that the immigration bureaucracy uses to maintain our Australian uniqueness whilst we exchange and integrate cultures with new immigrants. We are definitely richer for the experience. When I was growing up it was impossible to even buy soy sauce; it wasn't available. These days the Asian supermarkets are practically giving it away.

As for Cole's concerns with our wildlife, serpents and our ocean's sharks and poisonous jelly fish, I think you'd have better chance of an early demise from road accidents in LA or here. The melanoma can be a problem over time, but sunscreen lotion is advised and effective if you insist on going outdoors before nightfall. :icon1:

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The UK has 100 times less homicide than the US, taking popuation into account. This is mostly because of gun control. Only farmers and sportsmen have guns. Some of it is due to our smaller size so easier to police, but remember that the US has more police, so this is roughly cancelled out.

The 2nd ammendment was written in the 1800s (i think). In that time their firearms were basic pistols and rifles. If machine guns and assault rifles were there in that time, the 2nd amendment wouldn't have been added that way. They wouldn't have wanted the right to bear massacre weapons.

As for advantages to gay population, I'd rather not live in a country wherewhere guns are freely accessible. While one person with a gun in a country with no guns is an advantage, a person with a gun in a country of guns is not.

Remember, guns were invented to kill people. Cars were invented as a means of transportation.

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As for Cole's concerns with our wildlife, serpents and our ocean's sharks and poisonous jelly fish, I think you'd have better chance of an early demise from road accidents in LA or here. The melanoma can be a problem over time, but sunscreen lotion is advised and effective if you insist on going outdoors before nightfall. :icon1:

I think I was being a bit facetious. I meant to be at least. "Meant to" counts, doesn't it?

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And then there is our famous, laconic sense of humour; our quickness to see through the phoney posturing of others whilst we sometimes express our desire to think ourselves superior and at the same time live in fear of being inferior. We are isolated, with all the insular cultural qualities of the many ethnic peoples which make up Australia. It is working, but needs a lot more effort to fulfil the promise of remaining The Lucky Country. I wish we could export our mostly happy existence.

Excellent comments, as always, from Des. I agree: I have never met an Aussie in America who didn't have a genuinely humorous, self-depracating sense of humor. Just having the ability to cut through all the bullshit impresses me, and I love that about most of the Australians I've met and worked with.

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  • 1 year later...

Excellent comments, as always, from Des. I agree: I have never met an Aussie in America who didn't have a genuinely humorous, self-depracating sense of humor...

The exception to that might just be Ozzie Consular Officials. A friend's wife, a middle school teacher, got the offer of a lifetime: a one-year job & home swap with an Australian teacher and her family. Everything was going fine, but my friend almost scotched the whole deal.

He and his wife were both required to obtain visas for the stay. He went in to the consulate where he was interviewed (as he put it, interrogated) and asked quite a few questions along the way. The officer finally asked, "Do you have a criminal record?" to which my friend responded, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that was still required."

The officer was not amused.

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The officer probably was amused..........the first time he heard it.

It remind me of the quip about Gilbert Harding, a somewhat irascible journalist and TV presenter in the fifties.

It is said he was being questioned by Immigration on the way into the U.S. and was asked if he had any intention to cause insurrection or over throw the government and he replied

"Sole purpose of visit."

The immigration officer must have been the only one in the country who understood the absurdity of the question because Harding was allowed to stay.

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